Logophile Tuesday – Contronyms

A few weeks ago, I complained that “literally” had lost its original meaning and was now its own antonym. Thanks to fellow language lovers, I learned there is a word for that: contronym.

A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. While I was aware of “literally,” and it annoyed me, there were many more that I had not considered. Here for your pondering pleasure, a short list of my new favourite contronyms:

Dust (v)- covering something in, or clearing something of particulate matter

Clip (v)- attach together, or cut apart

Deceptively adjective – appears to be that adjective but is not, or appears to not be that adjective but actually is.

Sanction (v) – officially approve of, or place limits on

Fast (adj) – Moving quickly, stuck in place.

Apology (n) – An admission of fault, a formal defense of opinions or actions.

Weather (v) – to withstand dangerous or harmful conditions, to be damaged or eroded due to harmful conditions.

Any other good ones that I’ve missed?

Featured image – Catdog, Nickelodeon


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. The first one I ever noticed on my own:

    Cleave (v) – to split off from; to adhere tightly

  2. Steve, I love it. I hadn’t seen that one before.

    Breadbox, I’ve never seen cleave used as a verb outside of the context of D&D.

  3. Ryan: Does “meat cleaver” count?

    (I myself only saw cleave used for its “adhere” meaning while reading older English literature.)

  4. “Apparent” can mean “obvious” or “deceptive”.

    Ryan: Well, it’s used as a verb in the King James Bible, specifically the story of Adam and Eve. So…archaic even for the 17th century.

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